Barely a month after President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the first crude oil exploration in the Northern part of Nigeria, reports emerging claims Bauchi and Gombe State have begun to claim ownership of the oil fields.
Naija News reports that the four Kolmani oil fields, which lie in the Gongola Basin of the Upper Benue Trough, were initially awarded to Shell and Chevron in 1993 as Oil Prospecting Licenses 809 and 810 and Oil Mining Licenses 112 and 118.
Earlier on February 2, 2019, there were cheers in the Northern region after the President led top government functionaries to flag off the exploration of the resources discovered in commercial quantity.
The government had boasted that the development signals a new Nigeria with balanced resource distribution, diverse economic activities and sustained energy and security.
However, barely two weeks after history was made in the region, reports disclose that Bauchi and Gombe are already claiming the ownership of the Kolmani Oil and Gas field.
The PUNCH highlighted in a report that government officials and residents of the two states have accused each other of attempting to appropriate the site, which is said to contain one billion barrels of crude oil reserves and 500 billion standard cubic feet of gas.
Meanwhile, President Buhari had, during the inauguration of the oil exploration, noted that the governors of both states gave assurances of their unwavering commitment and willingness to ensure support and cooperation in the localities.
Unfortunately, the said assurances seemed to have hit the rock as the two states declared that they were the rightful owners of the oil-rich field.
NBC, NNPC Are Hypocrites
According to the Special Adviser to Gombe State Governor on Information Management and Strategy, Alhaji Ahmed Gara-Gombe, the National Boundary Commission (NBC) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd (NNPC) should be blamed for the controversies.
The state official said the two bodies were hypocrites as they failed to tell the truth. While insisting on Gombe’s ownership of the contentious Kolmani field, Gara-Gombe said: “The truth of the matter is that the Kolmani oil well is in Gombe State; Akko Local Government, Pindiga emirate, Tai district, Kaltanga Mamuda ward. It has nothing to do with Bauchi State or Alkaleri Local Government.
“If putting the records straight is what is seen as a crisis, so be it. The National Boundary Commission, the NNPC, are hypocrites in this matter, they know the truth and should come out clean.”
The government official stressed while conversing with reporters on the matter the solution to the argument is to give Gombe what belongs to it.
“Kolmani One is in Bauchi State in Alkeleri, let them go and explore that one. Four oil wells are in Gombe,” he said.
He noted, ‘’Again, we need an independent jury to determine and verify our claims. Our people whose land was dubiously taken in the name of access road and were paid between N64,000 to N117,000 as compensation by the NNPC must be paid appropriately.
“NNPC must go to Gombe side and also construct a road as they did on the Bauchi side. Besides, Pindiga (Gombe) to Kolmani is shorter and friendly terrain than the Bauchi (side) which is longer and unfriendly terrain.’’
On his part, a lawyer, Abdullahi Inuwa, blamed a former Group Managing Director of the NNPC, who passed on recently, for awarding the land to Bauchi State.
Naija News understands that the late NNPC GMD was an indigene of Misau, Bauchi State.
Speaking on his part in the controversy, Inuwa said their grouse was not with the Federal Government but the NNPC, noting that the president was misguided on the true owners of the land.
He stated, “The true position is we did not accuse the Federal Government directly but our accusation points at the NNPC, not the Federal Government per say. We are accusing the NNPC, since the late GMD’s time, of manipulation; for trying to create a smokescreen by portraying the fact that Kolmani is in Bauchi while Kolmani is in Gombe.
“There is a village head of Kolmani who is answerable to the district head and to the Pindiga emirate under the Akko Local Government. Our position is that Kolmani is in Gombe, not in Bauchi.
‘’The Federal Government or the President has been misled by the NNPC, especially the highest ranking officers of the NNPC that are of Bauchi State origin.”
He declined to speak further on how the late NNPC GMD allegedly caused the brewing feud but claimed that the NNPC had shown a preference for Bauchi State.
He said, “If you go to Misau, you will see so many developments made by the NNPC in Misau, where the late GMD came from. On the issue of boreholes constructed by the NNPC in the area, there are more boreholes on the side of Bauchi and less on the side of Gombe.
“Also, in that area in Bauchi where oil is alleged to have been discovered from the borders, all the fenced block is on the side of Gombe; there is no area on the side of Bauchi surrounded by walls where oil is to be drilled.
‘’And not only that, if you are to go to Barambu during the late NNPC GMD’s administration, I was informed about a store constructed by the NNPC in Barambu, which is part of Bauchi and I was told there is a laboratory there.
“If they had treated us fairly, whether Kolmani is in Bauchi or Gombe, we would remain mute; we would not say anything. As time goes on, the way and manner they are treating us as if we don’t know what we are doing are what provoked us to come out and voice out our grievances and also tell the world that this is our position, that we are not ready to relinquish Kolmani which is in the process of annexation from the side of Bauchi through the NNPC.”
Inuwa assured that the contention would not degenerate into violence, noting that they were ready for dialogue.
He said, “We have heard about the challenges in the Niger Delta, but sadly, in this case, it is the government, through the NNPC’s selfish interest, that is trying to create problems and disharmony.
‘’Some of us have parents who hailed from the other side, the Bauchi side; we go to their market, and they come to our market. We inter-marry; we are one. NNPC’s senior officers should remember the oath of allegiance; they are first from Nigeria before considering themselves as indigenes of Bauchi.’’
He stressed that from the outset, if someone like the late NNPC GMD had engaged both communities from both sides of the boundary, the issue wouldn’t have escalated.
Inuwa, however, believes that the state leaders will resolve the matter amicably.’
Kolmani Oil Belongs Bauchi – Gov’t
Meanwhile, the Bauchi government has maintained that the oil rigs belong to the state. In his defence, the Commissioner for Information in the state, Yakubu Ningi, told reporters that the state government would consult widely before making its position on the matter known to the public.
According to him, although the governor has been invited to speak on the matter, he did not go because he realised that the matter is taking a different dimension.
“He wants to have wider consultations after which the Bauchi State government’s position on the matter will be made public. His Excellency said you’ll need to give us some time to articulate our position before going to press later on,” Ningi said.
On his part, while reacting to Gombe’s claims over the oil field, Muhammad Bako, the member representing Pali Constituency in the Bauchi State House of Assembly where the area is situated, stressed that the area belonged to Bauchi, Naija News reports.
He added, “This issue is not an issue for the youths because when you bring in the youths, the issue has become a child’s play. They are being sponsored by people and they don’t know exactly where the boundary is.
“The chairman of the National Boundary Commission hails from Gombe State, but when the issue of verifying the boundary came up, he went and saw it (the boundary); they thought the boundary was in Gombe.
“But when they saw it, they left and never returned because they saw the truth that the oil was in Bauchi and not in Gombe. And you know, when people want to cause problems or crises, they use the youths, but I am calling on them not to cause trouble that will consume them. They are being sponsored by people who don’t know anything about this oil.”
NBC’s Reactions To Alleged Controversies On Kolmani Oil Fields
According to the publication, the Deputy Director NBC, Emmanuel Bulus, defended the commission saying it was not aware of the contention over the Kolmani oil field.
He reportedly said that only the director-general of the commission, Adamu Adaji, could speak on the matter, adding that he was out of Abuja at the moment.
On his part, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Garba-Deen Muhammad, said attention should rather be focused on oil production from the wells at the moment.
“Let us worry more about oil supply for now. This one (ownership tussle) can wait,” Bulus was quoted.